The Relay for Human Dignity

Shar Adams
Epoch Times
Australia Staff


Former Australian Olympian swimmer Jan Becker is one of the initiators of the Global Human Rights Torch Relay. (Kati Turcu/The Epoch Times)

Former Australian Olympian swimmer Jan Becker is
one of the initiators of the Global Human Rights Torch Relay. (Kati Turcu/The
Epoch Times)

A Global Human Rights Torch Relay (HRTR), inspired by the Olympic torch, is to be lit in Greece on Thursday August 9 and will travel around the world to put human rights on the agenda in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The present Chinese regime has failed to honour its promise to the International Olympic Committee to address human rights concerns, organisers of the torch say. Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch have detailed a litany of human rights abuses and say it is important to send the message that crimes against humanity and the Olympics cannot coexist while Beijing is listening.

Emmy Pfister, from the organising committee of the Australian leg of the HRTR, said now is the time to let Chinese leaders know that human rights do matter and are a concern.

“They care a lot about using the Olympics as a platform to showcase their supremacy,” she told The Epoch Times , “we are showing the other side of what is exactly happening in China, which they try so hard to cover it up”.

The HRTR will arrive in Australia on October 26 and will travel through major towns and cities around the continent throughout November and December.

Ms Pfister said Chinese people had pinned their hopes on the Olympics to improve their rights and were waiting for the world to speak out on their behalf.

“We are hoping to gather this momentum of the voice of the people right through Australia as well as the whole world to come together and be the voice for those that have no more voice in China,” she said. “This is the voice to show Chinese people that we do care for them.”

Initiators of the torch, a coalition of people who came together over concerns about organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China, include former Canadian secretary of state David Kilgour, former Australian Human Rights Commission Dr Sev Ozdewski, former Australian Olympian Jan Becker and Australian Democrat Senator Andrew Bartlett.

Adherents of the peaceful spiritual practice Falun Gong, have been vilified, detained and tortured in China for over eight years, but last year the horrific story surfaced that imprisoned practitioners of Falun Gong in China were being killed to service a lucrative trade in organs.

Ms Pfister said: “The most recent atrocity is the organ harvesting, this is the worst crime that anybody can imagine can happen in the 21st century.”

While members of the organising group are particularly calling for immediate cessation of the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, the release of all prisoners of conscience and access to and inspection of all detention camps and military hospitals in China, Ms Pfister said the torch itself will be a vehicle for other groups around the globe to express their individual concerns regarding human rights in China.

One group which is particularly keen on using the torch to highlight its grievances with the present Chinese regime is the Darfur Australia Network (DAN).

DAN is a community association run jointly by the newly arrived Darfur community in Australia and volunteers in Melbourne and Sydney. It is drawing on the spirit of the Olympics to run a Dream for Darfur campaign. This they hope will put pressure on the Chinese leadership to stop supporting the repressive regime in Sudan. Being a permanent member of the UN's Security Council, China has been thwarting UN efforts to apply pressure on Khartoum to address the humanitarian crisis.

According to the UN more than 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed and over 2 million displaced from their homes in the Western Sudan region since fighting broke out in 2003 between government forces, allied Janjaweed militia and repressed groups.

Jessica Crump, spokesperson for DAN in Australia, says Beijing has provided its Sudanese allies with more than $10 billion in commercial and capital investments, while also being one of the regime's primary suppliers of weapons and weapons technology. DAN, she says, will use the coming Beijing Olympics to highlight China's succour of Khartoum.

“Without exerting all the necessary pressure on Khartoum, the Dream for Darfur campaign will only grow in strength and visibility right up to the Olympics in 2008,” she said.

Ms Crump said a number of activities had been planned to raise the profile
of DAN in Australia including combined events with the Global Human Rights
Torch Relay.

Posting date: 07/Aug/2007
Original article date: 07/Aug/2007
Category: Media Report

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